This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series When Someone You Love is Overweight

Talking to a loved one about his or her weight is a conversation few people want to have. The subject is sensitive and for many of us with food and weight issues, painful.

At the start of this series, you learned why weight is so difficult in our culture today. The mixed messages of American culture make a healthy body image difficult for the best of us.

Dos and Don't for How to Talk to a Loved One about Weight

Yet if you have a loved one who is overweight to the point that it is affecting his or her health or quality of life, ignoring the situation is not the solution.

Before you start any conversation, the first step is to be sure to check your own heart. Why are you going into this conversation? Do you possibly have a selfish or judgmental agenda? Pray and ask God for wisdom and discernment. Be sure to read this article that explains checking your heart in more detail.

Here are some Dos and Don’t for how to talk to a loved one about weight.

Dos and Don’ts for How to Talked to a Loved One about Weight

For most of my life, I was overweight. Now I live as someone who has lost 100 lbs and is maintaining a healthy weight. I work with other women through our online fitness program, Faithful Finish Lines, who strive to lead a more healthy lifestyle.

The following Dos and Don’t come from my experiences.

Before you engage in a conversation with your husband, sister or brother, friend, or other loved one, consider these:

  • Do keep the initial conversation short. Your loved one might or might not be open to have this conversation with you. This will be painful for him or her no matter what, so plan for it to be a short conversation.
  • Don’t assume you know how it is. You don’t know how it is. I don’t care if you’ve lost 300 lbs. You haven’t walked in your loved one’s shoes. Each of us who has weight struggles has different issues we are battling.
  • Don’t give dieting advice. Weight issues, especially for those of us who have a lot to lose, have nothing to do with not knowing all the diet tricks. Good grief, most of us are expert dieters. We can tell you the calories, points, fat grams, and sugars in anything you put in front of us. We are serial dieters. We read all the magazines with tips and tricks, too. Nothing will shut down a conversation faster than non-asked-for advice. If those tips would help us, we would all be thin already. Diet tips are not what we need. If you are tempted to start any conversation with anything like, “Well, honey, why don’t you just…” shut your mouth immediately. I’m serious.
  • Do realize we think about our weight all the time. When I was overweight, I thought about my weight constantly. Everywhere I went, I wondered if I would be the heaviest person in the room. Every morning when I got up, I dreaded getting dressed. I went to bed at night calculating just how badly I had overeaten that day. Trust me, you are not bringing any new information to your loved one that he or she isn’t already considering.
  • Do understand that the timing has to belong to him or her. As much as you desperately want to see your loved one become more healthy, ultimately this has to be his or her deal. You can do everything in your power, but if this is not his decision, he will sabotage any efforts you make.**
  • Do praise the little things! I cannot stress enough how much your praise and encouragement matters. You are incredibly valuable. Your loved one is very down on himself and feels like a failure when it comes to this area of his life. When you see progress — no matter how tiny and small — praise it up, big time! Did you know that research has shown that when someone is even considering a positive change, they are moving along the continuum toward that change? Check out this helpful article about the 5 Stages of Change.
  • Don’t become the food police. It is absolutely, totally, 100% not your job to micro-manage your loved one’s diet. This will be damaging to your relationship. Would you want someone watching every single bite of food you eat? I didn’t think so.
  • Do ask what you can do to be supportive, and give suggestions. Are you willing to watch the kids so she can go to the gym? Will you go on walks with him? Are you willing to prepare healthier meals? Realize that your loved one might say no to these suggestions at first, but then be open to accepting help later.
  • Do be willing to put up with some craziness. Thank you in advance for putting up with some crazy behavior. He is going to do some things that will make no sense to you, like demand there be no ice cream in the house ever again, and then go buy a carton. She might eat a candy bar in front of you, almost as if taunting you to say something. You might be wondering what you are supposed to do in these situations. I know it’s very frustrating. Realize that many of us are overcoming addictions to food, and like any addiction, it’s going to take time, and there will be ups and downs along the journey to wellness. I can’t give you any hard and fast rules for how to handle situations like these, except to say please continue to love us, don’t micro-manage, and keep in mind our behavior probably frustrates us just as much as it does you.

Thank you for your care for your loved one and his or her health. Continue to approach the situation with honesty and love. Remember this is not a one time conversation, but many conversations over time. Don’t worry about getting the words exactly right. If your overall desire is to support and encourage, your loved one will feel your genuine compassion and concern.

**One final, important note: If you are a parent, and the person who is overweight is your child, this is a very different conversation. I am not a doctor and am not offering medical advice. Always seek the advice of your health professional.

As the parent, it is your responsibility to care for the health of your child. If your child is overweight, this is a problem you need to work toward correcting. You bring the food into the house. You control your child’s schedule. I know this is tough, but NOW is the time. Stop making excuses. Get an appointment with your child’s doctor and set up a plan to work together as a team to head in the right direction to bring your child to a healthier place.

Dos and Don'ts for How to Talk to a Loved One About Weight

 

 

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